Darryl Glen Sittler is a former professional hockey player who played sixteen professional seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Philadelphia Flyers and the Detroit Red Wings. Sittler was captain of the Maple Leafs between 1975 and 1979, as well as between 1980 and 1982. Sittler was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1989.
Sittler grew up in St. Jacobs, Ontario and began his hockey career by playing minor hockey in nearby Elmira. He was drafted out of the Junior B. Elmira Sugar Kings by the London Nationals, which were soon renamed the London Knights. Sittler played under coaches Turk Broda and Bep Guidolin. Sittler was selected eighth overall by the Maple Leafs in the 1970 NHL Amateur Draft. He was named team captain on September 10, 1975, after the Leafs told previous captain, 35-year-old Dave Keon, that it was time to pass on the role.
In his first season as captain, Sittler finished the season with 41 goals and 59 assists, becoming the first Maple Leaf to ever reach the 100 point mark. A few months later, Sittler tied the playoff record for most goals in one game, with five against Philadelphia. That summer, in the inaugural Canada Cup, he scored in overtime to win the final series for Team Canada over Czechoslovakia.
In 1977–78, his 117 points ranked him third in regular season scoring behind Guy Lafleur and Bryan Trottier. The strong season also earned Sittler a Second Team All-Star selection. During the playoffs, the Maple Leafs upset the New York Islanders in the quarter-finals, winning in overtime during game seven, before being swept by the Montreal Canadiens in the conference finals.
The 1978–79 season saw Sittler suffer from plaguing knee problems, in which he missed 10 games due to the injury. It was also the year that Maple Leafs owner Harold Ballard fired and then rehired coach Roger Neilson. Sittler strongly lobbied on the players' behalf for Neilson's reinstatement.
Sittler's relationship with Ballard slowly deteriorated, particularly after Ballard hired Punch Imlach as general manager in July 1979. Imlach and Ballard both had strained relations with NHL Players' Association executive director Alan Eagleson, who, as a player agent, represented more than a dozen Maple Leafs, including Sittler and his best friend and linemate, Lanny McDonald. Imlach believed Sittler had too much influence on the team and tried to undermine his authority with the players. When Sittler and Mike Palmateer agreed to appear on the TV show Showdown, as negotiated by the NHLPA, Imlach went to court to try to get injunction to stop them. When Imlach said that he was open to offers for Sittler from other teams, Eagleson said it would cost $500,000 to get Sittler to waive the no-trade clause in his contract. So, instead of trading Sittler, Imlach sent McDonald to the woeful Colorado Rockies on December 29, 1979. In response, Sittler ripped the captain's patch off his sweater, later commenting that a captain had to be the go-between with players and management, and he no longer had any communication with management. Ballard would liken Sittler's actions to burning the Canadian flag.
Through the summer, Ballard insisted that Sittler wouldn't be back with the Maple Leafs. However, before the start of the 1980–81 season, Sittler and Ballard appeared together at a news conference to announce that Sittler would be at training camp. He showed up with the captain's patch back on his sweater, reassuming the role of team captain. Sittler had arranged the talks with Ballard on his own. The discussions took place with Imlach hospitalized following his second heart attack. At the news conference, Ballard said the real battle had been between Imlach and Eagleson, and Sittler just got caught in the crossfire.
During the 1981–82 season, Ballard considered Imlach's health to be too poor for him to continue as general manager. But even with Imlach gone, Sittler's relationship with the Maple Leafs worsened to the point where he told Ballard and acting general manager Gerry McNamara at the end of November that he would waive his no-trade clause if he was sent to the Philadelphia Flyers or the Minnesota North Stars. In the first week of December, Eagleson agreed to terms with Flyers' owner Ed Snider and North Stars' general manager Lou Nanne. it took another seven weeks for the Maple Leafs to make a deal. During that time, Sittler added the Buffalo Sabres and the New York Islanders to the list of teams he could be traded to. On January 5, 1982, on advice from his physician, Sittler walked out on the Maple Leafs, saying he was "mentally depressed" because a trade was taking so long to complete. Finally, on January 20, 1982, the 31-year-old Sittler was traded to the Philadelphia Flyers for Rich Costello plus the Hartford Whalers' second-round pick in the 1982 draft (used by the Leafs to select Peter Ihnačák), and future considerations, which ended up being Ken Strong. Only Ihnacak would play regularly for the Leafs. The irony was that in 1980, Imlach had rejected an offer from the Philadelphia Flyers, who were said to be willing to trade Rick MacLeish and André Dupont for Sittler.
With the Flyers in 1982–83, Sittler earned his fourth All-Star game appearance. Before the 1984–85 season, Sittler was told that he would be named the Flyers' team captain. On the day the announcement was to be made, Sittler was instead told by Flyers' newly-appointed general manager Bobby Clarke that he had been traded to the Detroit Red Wings for Murray Craven and Joe Paterson. It was this incident that Sittler described as the biggest disappointment of his life. Sittler contemplated retirement, and didn't report to the Red Wings for a few days, but then joined the team. He had an unproductive season, struggling to get ice time under coach Nick Polano, and finishing the year with the worst goals-per-game average of his NHL career. The Red Wings bought out Sittler's contract after the end of the season. He received a one-year contract offer from the Vancouver Canucks, but decided to retire.
Sittler was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1989. In 1991, a year after Ballard died, he rejoined the organization as a consultant under new general manager Cliff Fletcher. On February 8, 2003, Sittler's number 27 was honoured by the Maple Leafs.